National News

Ex-NFL Player Calls on Church Leaders to Speak Up on Gun Violence

Chris Borland of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a tackle against the New York Giants in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 16, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images)

By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent

NEW YORK – One former professional football player is calling on Catholic leaders to declare gun control a pro-life issue and condemn white supremacy in the wake of the latest wave of public shootings.

Dayton-native Christopher Borland wrote an open letter to Cincinnati’s Archbishop Dennis Schnur wherein he called out what he termed a lack of action in responding to America’s epidemic of gun violence.

In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) earlier this week, Borland said he turned to Church leadership, as it’s the institution with which he was most familiar.

“It’s what I know, and I grew up within the Church. And I see a concerning lack of assertiveness in addressing what’s going on in our country. And to have, you know, what happened in Dayton be met with what I’d consider just the minimal reaction thoughts and prayers to me isn’t enough,” he told NPR host Sacha Pfeiffer.

“As tragic and violent shootings continue in our country – yesterday in El Paso, Texas, and overnight in our own community of Dayton, Ohio – I ask for everyone of faith to join in prayer for the victims and their loved ones,” Schnurr wrote in the wake of the recent massacres. “May we, the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, in unity petition our Blessed Mother to intercede for our families and neighbors to know the peace and healing of Jesus, her Son.”

Borland grew up in Kettering, Ohio, outside of Dayton, and played for NFL’s San Francisco 49ers after playing for the Wisconsin Badgers. His retirement in 2015 garnered national attention when he cited concern over head trauma from the sport as a primary motivation for leaving football. He has since said that he believes football to be “inherently dangerous.”

Borland has made three requests of Catholic leaders in the wake of recent shootings: To name and condemn white supremacy, to frame gun control as a pro-life position, and to hold Catholic politicians who “use the Lord’s name and talk about God in Christ to get elected and then don’t act once in office and embody those values” accountable.

The former NFL player said he hopes to use his platform to get other professional Catholic athletes to join with him in using their voices to pressure Catholic leaders to take the issue seriously.

“We do have a lot of power in the voice and the numbers of athletes that have competed in the greater Catholic League and we’re going to start there. Maybe it falls on deaf ears, but I think it’s better than doing nothing,” he said.

“The sad nature of gun violence in America and of hatred is that if you wait very long, there’s likely be another atrocity,” he continued. “So although it’s imperfect right now, we want to act and figure this out as we go. But, you know, when it happens in your backyard, you have to do something.”

Borland said that he has not received a reply from Schnurr, however a representative from the archdiocese of Cincinnati confirmed to NPR that the archbishop had read the letter, and an official from the archdiocese told The Tablet on Tuesday that the archdiocese is looking for potential ways to collaborate with Borland.

In a follow-up statement to the recent shootings last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a statement condemning the “hate-filled” language which motivated the recent shootings.

“The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic sentiments that have been publicly proclaimed in our society in recent years have incited hatred in our communities,” they wrote.

“We, therefore, renew our call to all to act swiftly to stop using hate-filled language that demeans and divides us and motivates some to such horrific violence. Instead, we ask our leaders and all Americans to work to unite us as a great, diverse, and welcoming people,” they concluded.

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